A trip to the pediatrician can be filled with stress – and I’m not even talking about the sick kid part. With so many tough questions and anxiety, by the time my kids actually see the doctor, I’m the one feeling feverish. Here’s a little of what I’m talking about.
“Am I getting a shot?” I hear it 6 times before we hit the waiting room. When the answer is no, there’s no problem. “Of course not dude!” I say as though I’ve never heard anything more ridiculous in my life. As if anyone ever gets a shot at the doctor. But when the answer is yes, then it gets a little hairy. Do I say no and let them find out I’m a liar (future topic for therapy) or say yes and give them unneeded anxiety (future topic for therapy)? So I hem and haw and add the word buddy to everything: “I’m not sure, buddy; let’s ask the doctor, buddy; let’s see what happens, buddy.” Once my kids realize that this is code for “whip out that shoulder,” I’m toast.
And then there’s the waiting room. Most pediatricians have a 2-part waiting room divided by an invisible line for the sick side and the well side, like some concealed barrier is keeping the germs from crossing over and penetrating the healthy side’s pristine air. So what do you do when your kids, like mine, insist on crossing the line? You can’t really scream “NOOO” because that’s way too insensitive to the red-eyed 8 year old sprawled across his mothers lap. So, if you’re like me, you give a really mean stare and grunt and point hard at the ground in front of you to get your kid back, carrying the stigma of cross contamination back with him.
And what if your kid is kind of sick? Do you send her to the sick side to sit next to the girl with croup? Or keep her on the well side and warn her not to cough. And if you stay on the well side and your child dares to moan “I don’t feel good,” oooh, watch out! Those moms with the infant carriers are no joke – they haven’t slept in weeks and they’re ready to snap.
And if you finally get a free moment, you can sit back and read a magazine, as long as your only interests in life are cooking for picky eaters or keeping fit during pregnancy (I mean, we’re parents, what else could we be interested in). I personally think the waiting room should be stocked with “Travel and Leisure” so we can fantasize as our kids wipe their noses on our sleeves.
In fact, assuming it’s a run of the mill visit (like I have twice a week), the actual “seeing the doctor” part is the least stressful. By now you know what to expect. He’ll look for Elmo in your child’s ear, have him blow the light on and usually send you off to the pharmacy to wait a half hour even though the nurse claims to call it in while you check out. You’ll watch your daughter jump excitedly onto the scale knowing that excitement will one day end hard! Your son will spin around in the doctor’s chair while you plead about when he can return to school, and then the visit is over.
So how can us parents keep those trips to the pediatrician’s office stress free? Sadly, we can’t. And try as we may, even an apple a day won’t keep the doctor away. But look at the bright side. Studies show that hormones released during stress can boost brainpower, increase immunity and sharpen cognitive functioning. In fact, many doctors say a little stress each day can actually help you live longer.
And in that case, I may just live forever.